How small business owners can survive Harvey

Jerry WhiteJerry White
Director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship

On the threat natural disasters pose to small business owners

“One of the greatest risks is whether your market that existed before the disaster will be there after the disaster. Perhaps much of your customer base will move to a different location. The disaster may have taken some affluent individuals and injured them financially to the extent that they can no longer buy your premium or discretionary goods. The skillful business person will invest some time and energy assessing the post-disaster target market.”

On the resources that exist to help small business owners recover

“There are numerous formal sources of assistance, including the US Small Business Administration and FEMA, that have significant assistance programs. One major resource is your own ingenuity in rethinking your business and seeing if there is a reinvention of your concept that does not require all the pre-disaster resources.”

On when to call it a day and close the business

“There are at least two things to consider, and you have to ask a lot of questions.”

1.)   “Your assessment of the post-disaster market involves these questions: Is it the same as the pre-disaster market? Will the post-disaster market need your product or service? Do you sell an essential good, like gasoline, or discretionary item, like jewelry or a spa treatments?”

“Can your post disaster market pay for your product or service? Has it been so financially damaged that it must buy a used car instead of a new one (and you sell new cars)?”

“Has your pre-disaster market evacuated the area, never to return?”

2.)   “And your assessment of yourself: Are you energized by the disaster and highly motivated to rebuild bigger and better?”

“Do you view the disaster as an opportunity? Is this the chance to modernize the business that you have been looking for?”

“Are you weary of fighting the battle with competitors and jumping back into the business just doesn’t sound like fun?”

“Does this seem like a good time to liquidate your business assets and retire?”

On whether the recovery period will provide ethical business opportunities to small business owners

“The obvious specialty service opportunity would be consultant work, helping business owners recover from the disaster. Helping to apply for disaster assistance, assisting in acquiring new bank credit, helping to develop and implement a recovery plan... These are all specialty services made possible by the disaster.”

White is director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Cox School of Business at SMU

Can discuss:

  • entrepreneurship
  • small business strategy in times of crisis
  • how to grow a small business into a thriving one